Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


Bellyaching Laughter (video included)!

Oh my goodness, so much animosity in the world, so much anger. So many loud voices shouting past one another. So many people on edge, looking for a fight. So, so many of us convinced that we are absolutely right about EVERYTHING.

So much anxiety, so much angst. Every day seemingly darker than our nights. Isolated and lonely, we retreat to our cul de sacs, our silos, our lonely little corners.

How do we climb out of this quagmire?

Well, maybe?

Raise your sights. Look up instead of down. Try to listen more than you talk. (I know, so hard.) Sit in a different pew. Join a different lunch table. Walk on the other side of the street or the “wrong side” of town.

And more than anything let us not take ourselves too seriously. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves. It’s both disarming and charming and you will be far better company to just about everybody — including yourself.

Yes, learn to laugh at yourself. I guarantee if you relax and just be who you are (and no one can do that better than you), you will discover your inner comedian. Nothing is better for the soul than laughter. Humor is absolutely one of God’s greatest gifts.

Seinfeld taught us that even “nothing” could be hysterical, right? Binge watch it. Or Parks & Recreation. Or The Office. Or the sitcom of your choosing. Or maybe Monty Python?

Share the laughter. Invite a friend, a neighbor, a cranky family member, or your suitor. There is no cheaper date than popcorn and a movie from the comfort of your couch.

Tell your own funny stories. The time you mistook your wife for your mother-in-law. The time you bombed at karaoke. The time you pretended to understand French so you wouldn’t offend the waiter.

Lean in and listen; gather around the campfire. Do you recognize yourself or someone you know in one another’s stories?

As a preacher, I often tell personal stories. And in my free time, I freelance as a storyteller, too. For the last five years, I have been part of this amazing organization in Washington, D.C.: Story District. Their mission is to bring as many incredibly crafted first person true stories to the stage. Told live, up close, and personal. (They have classes, too!)

Recently, I told a story with my daughter at Story District’s Top Shelf at the Lincoln Theatre. We were honored to be the “closers.” Our story guaranteed to leave the audience laughing.

Rolling in the aisles funny. Pee in your pants funny. Laughing your backside off funny: the tale of our mother-daughter trip to the Mile High City — where we availed ourselves of all that is legal there and the hysterical antics that followed.

Click here to watch our mother-daughter masterpiece!

Laughter is air and water and light and fire, all rolled into one. It’s healing and revealing. The very best medicine for weary souls.

God’s greatest gift to humankind, in these oh so trying times. Hands down.


Top Shelf 2020: A Weekend in the Mile High City w/Joani & Colleen

Woo hoo!! U&U followers!

If you enjoy reading my manic tales, I bet you might also really enjoy hearing me perform one live on stage!!

Maybe you’ve attended a previous Story District performance. Story District is a 20 year old boffo storytelling community in D.C. All the tellers share first person true stories – exceedingly well crafted and delivered supported by the Story District’s pro coaches and directors. They also have awesome workshops and classes!

My maiden voyage was in a 2015 show inspired by this very blog and debuted at my my parish Emmanuel. Take a look here if you missed it:

Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness

And here is my very funny and embarrassing story about “how to get a date worth keeping”.

Joani in Story District’s Second Tuesday: I Can’t Feel My Face

One about my worst job(s) ever!

Joani in Story District’s Worst Job Ever at DC Comedy Improv

And my story of the balance between the mystical and the maniacal!

Joani in NPR Invisibilia Live w/Story District at the Lincoln Theatre

And I am super psyched to announce that again at the Lincoln Theatre, on January 25th, I will be performing along with daughter Colleen in Story District’s Top Shelf 2020. We are both over the moon to be one of the top eight stories chosen from almost two hundred the previous year.

It’s super exciting too because this was Colleen’s very first foray onto the Story District Stage. And it’s the first time Story District produced such a show: He Said, She Said, They Said. One story, more than one point of view!

Ours is a tale of an adventurous weekend we spent together in the Mile High City — where we sampled all the city legally had to offer. And the hilarious antics that ensued thereafter!

I would LOVE to see you there. Please, come cheer us on! The house is already half sold out! So get your tickets here!

Tickets for Top Shelf 2020, January 25 @ The Lincoln Theatre

It’s a night of poignant, moving and hilarious storytelling. The best of the best. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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A Dead Dog & a Digested Bird: Joani w/Story District @ DCImprov

Not much to write here. But much to enjoy.

Story District has launched a new monthly series: Worst Case Scenarios and I was psyched to be included in the inaugural show. Eight storytellers, including myself, took to the stage at DCImprov Comedy Club to share the stories of our hysterical, disastrous and often very brief careers: in retail, in coffee shops, a video store and more.

My story tells the tale of my high school flameout career in the animal kingdom. Disastrous to a teenager, it is hysterical now. And I knew deep in my heart this job would finally pay off.

So click here to enjoy my six minutes of fame, my YouTube tale of my Worst Job Ever.

And if you want to see more, click here to watch the entire show!

And there is more to come: worst trip, worst decision, worst flight, worst day. Click here for tickets or to pitch your own story – even if you have never done it before!

Enjoy!


64 is the New 46!

An alchemist am I.

In the medieval sense, an alchemist is a philosopher who takes what is base and spins it into gold. A scientist in pursuit of the elixir of life.

Yep, that’s me, fits me to a “t.” But alchemist also fits in the 21st century sense.

According to my EVO Planner, this is how my brain is wired.

Alchemists gravitate toward the abstract and theoretical. They prefer experimenting with their ideas in the real world, and develop a lot of their key ideas while interacting with other people. They are mostly focused on the future and the possibilities it holds.

Ah, music to my alchemist ears: focused on the future and all the possibilities it holds.

I am about to turn 64. Can you believe it? (Here is where you say, “No, you could not possibly be turning 64!”) And vanity has made me ever grateful for my mother’s genes – people have mistaken us both in our lifetimes for a bit younger than we actually are.

64 is two times 32, right? And if you ask me that is how I feel. Two rocking 32 year olds – with a peacock feather streak of color in my gray hair. (Thank you, Olivia at Salon de Zen.) I am not my mother’s or my grandmother’s Oldsmobile, so to speak.

And 64 for me is far larger than my 46. Not simply numerically but expansively. Sure, I am 17 years older but I am also, 17 years more evolved, 17 years more alive than I have ever been.

At 46 I actually faced some of my most difficult days. My marriage imploded. The church where I was rector crashed down around my ears. In my darkest of days, it actually hurt to open eyes and it seemed better perhaps if I no longer did.

But this darkness led me to light.

I took a two-week cruise on the good ship Dominion in 2003. I actually LOVED being on the psyche ward. It totally saved my life. And it set me on a 16 year trajectory of redefining and reclaiming, resurrecting and reimagining who I am.

With God’s help, of course, I am a person of faith. But also with more than a little help from friends and family and therapists and work.

And….

I am going to tell you the truth (not to sound conceited.) The biggest help to me was me. Me, myself, and I.

I have made a bazillion daily decisions over the last 6,0205 days. Each a little choice, each a small turn in the direction of my future and not my past. Step by step by step, the steps add up until a few small steps add up to one enormous leap. A leap into the fullness of my life.

And I am grateful for the sun that has come up everyday and thankful for every breath that I have been blessed to breathe – that have brought me happy and whole to this day.

So 64 is the new 46! And in no particular order, let me count the ways.

  1. Coffee.
  2. Colored pens.
  3. Shelves full of books.
  4. A closet full of dresses.
  5. Half a dozen pairs of walking shoes.
  6. A dog named Bailey.
  7. Two Tabbies: Cheshire & Charlie.
  8. Baptizing babies.
  9. Performing on stage.
  10. Six million rounds of the rosary.
  11. Walking in God’s great outdoors.
  12. Three half marathons.
  13. Three little pills I take each night.
  14. Three years with Sondra on the therapist’s couch.
  15. Ten years prior with Mary.
  16. Four rocking adult children: Rebecca, Zach, Colleen & Jacob.
  17. Four gospels to preach.
  18. An office to call my own.
  19. Colleagues who are more than colleagues.
  20. Coworkers who have become friends.
  21. Digital connectivity in cyberspace.
  22. Gathering folks in God’s name.
  23. Regular dips in the pool.
  24. Fire in my fireplace and pillows to rearrange.
  25. My soul sister, Mical.
  26. My soul brothers, Neal and Chuck.
  27. A little bit of chocolate every day.
  28. Canadian sister Maureen, big bro Tim & baby brother Joseph — age 58!(and maybe the other siblings, too.)
  29. Story District: Invisiblia, 2nd Tuesday & Top Shelf.
  30. Grandchildren: Bella, Jude & Meir; Zhen, Zakai & Zellie.
  31. Great-little-nieces: Virginia & Astrid.
  32. DNA, genetics, and ancestry.com.
  33. A writer’s life: 151 posts @ Unorthodox & Unhinged.
  34. A big red bike I barely ride.
  35. Being Associate for Liturgy & Hilarity at EEC.
  36. Pie (my favorite food group) at Killer ESP.
  37. A full refrigerator with food ready to eat.
  38. Christmas that lasts at least a month.
  39. Birthdays that last at least a week.
  40. Saturday Night Live on a Sunday afternoon.
  41. Cult related documentaries, articles and books (Think Wild, Wild Country and Going Clear.)
  42. Excursions to The Porches, the Oakhurst Inn, Mandarin Oriental and the Line.
  43. Sharing my hometown library, the largest library in the world: LOC.
  44. The rhythm and color of the liturgical year.
  45. Singing an off key soprano whenever I can.
  46. And coffee. Did I say coffee?

64 is the new 46!


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Sur/real: NPR Invisibilia w/Story District!

Woo hoo!

This past spring I was honored and overjoyed to be part of NPR Invisibilia’s first live event with Story District.

My Sur/real story of the summer of 2005 –navigating the space between the mystical and the manic — was one of six selected.

I felt a bit like an impostor – included with other heavy hitting storytellers I am in awe of. Working with Amy Saidman, Story District’s Artistic Director is an exercise in the craft of first class storytelling.

Each eight minute story is the end product of several coaching sessions, rewrites and rehearsals. It’s a rare and rewarding collaborative creative process.

And finally my knee-knocking performance April 17th at the Lincoln Theatre in front of a packed audience. Yikes!

Exciting for me but also I really hope my story might resonate with yours. All those listening who also have the gift of a bipolar brain. And those whose spiritual life lights up their world. This one is for you!

So take a listen to 47 minutes of great stories.

NPR Invisibilia Live with Story District Podcast

Or watch the the Sur/real performance on YouTube!

And please share! (I’m a shameless self promoter!)


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U&U: The List 2016/2017


The third annual U&U List, full of twists and turns, blessing and curse, presented in whimsical and random order for your year ending contemplation and consideration. (And once you’ve read mine, grab pen and paper and come up with your own!)

  1. 2016/2017
  2. 61/62
  3. I’m with Her/I’m Still with Her
  4. Bishop Payne Library/Library of Congress
  5. Ghost of Christmas Present/Ghost of Christmas Future
  6. Story District 1st 2nd Tuesday/Story District 2nd 2nd Tuesday
  7. Unorthodox&Unhinged/Sex&The Single Vicar
  8. Milk/Almond Milk
  9. Mulder/David Duchovny
  10. Whole Foods/Harris Teeter
  11. Blogger/Author
  12. Kindle Fire/iPad Mini
  13. Target/Lululemon
  14. Killer ESP/Killer ESP
  15. Kind Bars/Dangerously Delicious Pies
  16. OK Cupid/DC Singles
  17. #NeverTrump/#NeverEverEverTrump
  18. Old Town/Capitol Hill
  19. Metro/Uber
  20. Priest Associate/Associate for Liturgy & Hilarity 
  21. La Croix/Spindrift
  22. “Going Clear”/”The Path”
  23. TOMS/Bucketfeet
  24. Knowledge/Wisdom
  25. Maniac/Bibliomaniac
  26. Caffeine/Half Caf
  27. Half Marathons/Half Measures
  28. Lewis Carroll/Christmas Carols
  29. Vacuuming/Dusting
  30. Alphabetical/Color Coded
  31. Worshipper/Whisperer
  32. Friend/Femme Fatale
  33. Sirius XM/Spotify
  34. Keeping Secrets/Spilling the Beans
  35. Break Ups/Make Ups
  36. Cider/IPA
  37. Mom/Mom-in-law
  38. Procrastinator/Finisher
  39. Wedding Chapels/Baptismal Fonts
  40. Aunt Joani/Great Aunt Joani
  41. Nail Biting/Manicures
  42. Rosary Beads/Meditation Apps
  43. Head Bands/Head Space
  44. Fair Trade/Free Trade
  45. Off the Cuff/Office Hours
  46. Early Voting/Emigrating
  47. Curtains/Shades
  48. Tights/Spanx
  49. Blue Glasses/Red Spectacles
  50. Gray Hair/God’s Highlights
  51. Preacher/Teacher
  52. Possibility/Possibilities Publishing
  53. God with us/God within us
  54. Burt’s Bees/Bella Cara
  55. Backpack/Purse
  56. Matchie-Matchie/Mix&Matchie
  57. Out of the Pool/Into the Fire
  58. Road Tripper/Time Traveller
  59. Fit to be tied/Wii Fit
  60. Mood Swings/Climate Changes
  61. 6:30/Half Past Six
  62. Business/Pleasure
  63. Ribbon/String
  64. Coworkers/Coconspirators
  65. Democrat/Citizen
  66. Ball Points/Felt Tips
  67. Stuffed Animals/Animal Shelters
  68. Feel the Bern/Feel the Pain
  69. Saint Robin (Williams)/Saint Carrie (Fisher)
  70. “The Tudors”/”The Crown”
  71. Potted Plants/Fresh Flowers
  72. Le Pain Quotodien/Carluccio’s
  73. Starbucks/Stumptown
  74. Victoria’s Secret/Bloomers
  75. Pajamas/Slips
  76. Turtlenecks/Cowl Necks
  77. Collecting/Contemplating
  78. Safety Nets/Safety Pins
  79. Bitches/Bichon Frises
  80. Krispy Kreme/Sugar Shack
  81. Amazon.com/East City Bookshop
  82. Left Turn/”The Right Turn”
  83. Huntley Meadows Nature Park/Flirtatious Downtown Dog Park
  84. Hand Dryers/Paper Towels
  85. E-book/Real Book
  86. Facebook/Instagram
  87. WNS4950/JLPU&U
  88. Baby Spinach/Grownup Kale
  89. Friday Therapy/Wednesday Therapy
  90. Blissed/Blessed
  91. Digestive System/Solar System
  92. Irritable/Anxious
  93. Banker/Debtor
  94. Songster/Dancer
  95. Babbler/Believer
  96. Off Ramp/On Ramp
  97. Oak Trees/Acorns
  98. Hipster/Hope Peddler
  99. Peacock/Like the Bird
  100. Middle Child/Going Wild
  101. Star Gazer/Earth Dweller

And I am ecstatically, exquisitely, eternally grateful to the Creator of the Universe, the Very Ground of my Being for each and every day of each and every year.

Each and every day, even if it be the worst day, is a holy day, a gift.

Big blessings be to you and yours in 2017! 


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After Orlando – Out/Spoken Voices Headed South

outspoken banner

Just two weeks after Story District’s Out/Spoken: Queer, Questioning, Bold & Proud,  horrific events erupted in Orlando. By no coincidence, we all know, timed to coincide with LGBTQ Pride.

June 4th the 9:30 Club was packed with joy and celebration. Happy gay people (and straight people) were everywhere! Coproduced with Capital Pride, Out/Spoken is Story District’s 6th Annual Pride show in DC. Eight great storytellers shared their “true stories told through an LGBT lens”. Revealing, poignant, hilarious, powerful, and moving, I was honored to be a part of it for the very first time.

Out/Spoken is far from done. This fall it’s going on tour. Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, Out/Spoken is headed south. In October the show travels to Atlanta, in November to Birmingham. Yes, by design, directly on to the battleground for LGBTQ equality.

After Orlando, the tour could not be more important. Amy Saidman, SD’s Creative Executive Director, has pledged to redouble Story District’s commitment to bring LGBTQ voices to the stage.

While U&U was on hiatus, I was honored to guest blog for Out/Spoken. I interviewed and “spotlighted” the co-director, the animator, and four of the storytellers.

Let me introduce you to all six.

Mike Boyd, Story District’s Co-Director of Out/Spoken,

Jeffrey Brady, Story District’s Artist and Animator for Out/Spoken,

Jud Lewis, Poet, Teacher & Storyteller,

Ricky Harrison, Partner in Life, Law & Love,

Andrea Jones, Educator, “Perfect Liar”, and Storyteller and

Kelly Madrone, Author, Storyteller, Message Therapist & Mom

Amazing people all of them, they will share their stories where LGBTQ voices are seldom heard. There will be local storytellers too – both in Atlanta and Birmingham.

So spread the good news and God bless Out/Spoken.

JoaniSign